2003-2005 Yamaha FJR1300 - Smart Money - MC Garage

When the FJR1300 first broke cover in Munich, Yamaha's U.S. brain trust didn't think anybody on this side of the Atlantic cared. But after a resounding howl rose up from hard-core, high-mileage tourists, the FJR arrived here in '02 as an early release '03. Thanks to a crafty pre-order program, it's become something of a cult classic among the GPS and radar-detector set. Looking for big power, humane weather protection-that's an electrically adjustable windscreen, Billy-hard bags, shaft drive and genuinely sporty road manners? And you want all that at an affordable price? The FJR delivers.

The '03 model arrived 86 pounds lighter and $400 less expensive than Honda's ST1300. Its fuel-injected 1298cc four put 89 pound-feet of torque on the pavement at 7000 rpm, followed by 127 horsepower at 7500-enough to push its 641 pounds through the quarter-mile in 11 seconds and wax any ST or equivalent BMW. Twin balance shafts squelch most of the vibes. It carves up corners more readily than most tourers despite a scarcity of cornering clearance. Assuming your dimensions match its relatively compact cockpit, Yamaha's bullet train will whisk you from L.A. to Nacogdoches comfortably enough. Fill the 6.6-gallon tank every 200 miles or so and it's good, maybe very good. But not perfect.

Stock springs favor comfort over track-sharp handling despite the two-stage preload adjuster. A fair amount of heat wafts up from the engine on hot days. Early models were susceptible to corrosion on various metal bits; have a good look at the fork sliders, engine cases and exhaust system. Some FJRs-especially high-mileage examples-suffer from premature valve-guide wear and an idiosyncratic ticking noise from the top end. Log on to www.fjr1300.info or www.fjrtech.com for a load of data on that and other topics.

Despite some shortcomings, the FJR has earned a dedicated following as a sporting alternative to the two-wheeled land yacht. Sophistication has come with age; optional ABS arrived with the '04 model, along with 320mm front discs and other welcome embellishments.

So if you're in the market for something that will cover some serious distance this summer without taking out a second mortgage, poke around for a nicely looked-after FJR. We'll look for you in Nacogdoches.

Tons o' torque in an athletic package that delivers plenty of long-distance amenities

Soft-ish suspension under a cockpit that's cramped for tall types and heats up on hot days

Watch for
Corrosion on exposed metal bits, especially exhaust headers and collector. Top-end ticking that can signal untimely valve-guide wear. Dry/worn driveshaft splines

Comfy 127-horse transcontinental transit at a nice price

2003 - $8515
2004 - $9770 (ABS)
2005 - $10,015